Guam ‘like a scene from Twister’ after powerful typhoon thrashes Pacific island

Residents and officials of Guam emerged from homes and shelters Thursday to survey the damage done to the U.S. Pacific territory after a long night of hunkering down as Typhoon Mawar’s howling winds shredded trees, flipped vehicles and knocked out utilities.

The central and northern parts of the island received more than 60 centimetres of rain as the eyewall, the most severe part of the typhoon, passed. Most of the rest of Guam received about 30 centimetres of rain during the storm, said Brandon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The island’s international airport flooded, and the swirling storm churned up a storm surge and waves that crashed through coastal reefs.

“We are waking up to a rather disturbing scene out there across Guam. We’re looking out our door and what used to be a jungle looks like toothpicks — it looks like a scene from the movie Twister, with trees just thrashed apart,” said Landon Aydlett, his twin brother and fellow NWS meteorologist.

“Most of Guam is dealing with a major mess that’s gonna take weeks to clean up,” he added.

Trees stripped of leaves against a grey sky
Trees were stripped of leaves in the wake of the Category 4 typhoon, which pummeled the U.S. Pacific territory with howling winds, torrential rain and a life-threatening storm surge. (Grace Garces Bordallo/The Associated Press)

The strongest typhoon to hit the territory of roughly 150,000 people since 2002, Mawar briefly made landfall around 9 p.m. local time Wednesday night as a Category 4 storm at Andersen Air Force Base on the northern tip of the island, weather service officials said.

“It was on land for about 30 to 35 minutes before it moved back offshore,” said Patrick Doll, another NWS meteorologist.

‘Like a freight train’

As it crept slowly over the island, the typhoon sent solar panels flying and crumbled part of a hotel’s exterior wall to the ground, according to videos posted on social media. At what felt like its peak intensity, the winds screeched and howled like jets, and water swamped some homes.

Leah del Mundo spent the night with her family in their concrete home in Chalan Pago, in central Guam. She told The Associated Press they tried to sleep but were awakened “by violent shaking of the typhoon shutters and the whistling strong winds.”

“It’s not our first rodeo,” she said via text message. “We’ve been through worse. But we brace ourselves for the cleanup, repairs, restoration afterwards.”

WATCH | Rain and strong winds whipped the island for hours: 

Typhoon Mawar blasts Guam

Pacific storm pounds the U.S. territory of Guam with high winds and heavy rain.

Buildings made of concrete in storm-prone Guam seemed to fare well.

“If your home is not made of concrete, your life and property are in peril with typhoons like these,” del Mundo said.

In Tumon, on Guam’s northeastern shore, winds tore a granite countertop from a hotel’s outdoor bar and tossed it about a metre in the air. Guests scrambled to stack chairs to brace the doors, and windows buckled and creaked.

“It was like a freight train going on outside,” said Thomas Wooley, who recounted how wind and rain pushed through the aluminum shutters of his family’s concrete home overlooking Tumon Bay. When day broke, he found their outdoor china cabinet toppled, its contents shattered on the ground. A chainsaw-wielding cousin helped clear downed branches.

“We’ve got tons of work to do,” Wooley said. “It’s going to take a few days to clean it up.”

Toppled trees and vegetation
It could take days to know the full extent of damage to the island as the storm downed power and internet connections. (Grace Garces Bordallo/The Associated Press )

Power, internet out

The scope of the damage was difficult to ascertain early on, with power and internet failures making communication with the far-flung island difficult.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio were assessing the situation after the island “received the full brunt of the typhoon overnight,” emergency management officials said in a statement. They planned a driving tour to look for any major damage or blocked roadways.

J. Asprer, a police officer in the Dededo precinct in northern Guam, said before dawn that he had not received any reports of injuries, but noted that several police cars and personal vehicles had been damaged by debris and uprooted trees made some roads impassable. Most of the calls overnight came from worried people off-island who were unable to reach family members.

“We told them we’ll have to wait until the storm clears up a bit,” he said.

Ray Leon Guerrero, mayoral office assistant in Barrigada who is not related to the governor, said a village of about 9,000 people in central Guam, stayed at the office overnight and heard objects slamming into the roof and outside walls constantly.

“Oh man. It was pretty noisy,” he said.

Guam is about 6,115 kilometres west of Hawaii and 1,575 kilometres east of Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

By early Thursday, Mawar was centred about 12 kilometres northwest of Guam and 137 kilometres west of Rota, Guam’s neighbour to the north, moving west-northwest at 13 km/h.

The storm is expected to track generally northwest over a large, empty of expanse of ocean for days, and it could threaten Taiwan next week.

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